Saturday, 8 February 2014

Musings on Fuel Efficiency 3

Welcome back to our series on cutting our fuel costs. Last time we looked at some ways to find cheaper fuel or to pay less for fuel. This time we will focus on what we can do to our car to ensure it is using fuel as efficiently as possible.

De-clutter the car
To start off with, the biggest fuel efficiency sinker for a car is its weight. The heavier a car is, the more energy it requires to move it. Basic physics, really.

Go check the boot. I have seem family members with toolboxes, excess clothing, tripods and camera gear, pushchairs and baby seats, in their vehicle boots. If you do not need it for your journey, leave it behind. I carry a pocket multi-tool as part of my everyday carry, for emergencies; and in my boot is just a warm waterproof jacket and a bottle of clean water.
While your cleaning your boot, this might be a good time to change your large spare tyre for a space saver tyre. The weight savings will make it worthwhile.

While we are discussing weight, if your petrol station is nearby home or work, and not out of your usual journey routes. There is no need for a full tank of fuel every few weeks. The weight of all that fuel your carrying around for a fortnight is costing you extra fuel. Go for half a tank each time and use that. You never know, next week the prices may drop, and since your car is less heavier in the interim, you will save a few quid (over the course of the next few months). Obviously if you're going on a long journey, make sure you have adequate fuel or plan where the cheapest places are to stop for fuel.

Reduce drag.
The shape of your car determines how much air resistance your car faces, the larger and less slimline your car (that's one of the reasons large off road vehicles have larger engines), the more energy it requires to cut air resistance and get up to speed. The killer items here are roof racks and cycle carrying equipment. Stow them in your shed/garage unless you absolutely need them.

Under or over inflated tyres.
Ensure that your tyres are the recommended type for your vehicle (especially if you have just bought a second hand car) and that they are inflated to the right pressure and tracked correctly. There's a lot to take in there, but your car manufacturer recommends certain pressure/size for your car, so follow those guidelines (the previous owner may have cheaped out during an MOT or service - so it might affect your fuel efficiency); Also check that you have the correct tyres for the season, summer tyres in winter and winter tyres in summer, may be wasting valuable fuel.. Secondly check the amount of air in the tyres, deflated tyres will cause your engine to work harder to maintain the speed shown on your speedometer. Finally ensure that the tyres are tracked correctly. This just means that your tyres need to be the correct angle to the axle/suspension, as recommended by the manufacturer (its not just a straightforward 90 degree angle, unlike toy models). Again, your engine has to work harder to maintain the speed shown on your speedometer, if your car tyres are not aligned properly. Get a good mechanic to check this at your next service.

Ensure that your car is serviced properly and regularly. The air condition/filters and oil inside the car, will ensure a smoother and better ride if they are clean and the correct type for your car. Greasy air filters and incorrect amounts and types of oils inside the engine will make for an unhappy engine and will cause it to be a little bit more thirsty.

This doesn’t have to be expensive. Man up and do it yourself. With the availability of the internet and sites like youtube and howcast, you can find very specific instructions for your make and model on how to get your hands dirty (and save yourself some money). It is pretty basic, like checking your oil levels and locating your air filter, and if done regularly, it will not take too long.

That's it for now. I hope I have saved you a little bit of money. Do you have any further advice for our readers, please let us know in the comments.

This is part of a series on fuel efficiency and money saving on motoring fuel. Keep your eyes peeled for the next part in the series with further tips on getting you saving you money on your fuel expenditure.

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